My dad’s travel journal part 13

by sumpteretc

Monday, August 30:
7:00 AM…beautiful sun…as always…birds chirping, but very brisk air coming in the window as I open it. Could be in the low 40’s still, not sure. Smoke is rolling out of several smokestacks as I look out across the city from my fifth floor window. Ulaanbaatar has a smog problem. Gers often heat with coal, burn about 5 tons per year…per family (if I said 2.6 earlier in this journal, I was confused). Government officials are encouraging newer methods of heating. We are down to just two days of vacation left now. I have mixed feelings about that. I want to give Chris &Tiff their bed back and let them resume their normal lives. School will start for them the day after we leave. They will also have to begin home schooling Elijah that day. Busy…busy! But, we will miss them and the boys as another one and one-half years will remain for them to serve in Mongolia, before a furlough year begins. I am writing journal notes at 9:30 AM. It is now 46 degrees. We were served eggs, bacon, toast, juice, milk, and coffee for breakfast. We then played some Wii tennis and golf. We are to set out on a walking tour in a short while.
Well, I’m back. First, we walked about 20-30 minutes…to Chris &Tiff’s language school building. We met their director and she spoke (in English) to us. She thought that I looked like Chris (or vice-versa), and that Carol & I looked young. We saw some of the other teachers as they came in. Though we couldn’t always understand what was being said, Chris & Tiff proceeded to arrange their schedules for the upcoming school semester.
All of the teachers desire to teach them. I think it allows those teachers to learn to speak English more effectively. I noticed that the director had a ring on her finger with a swastika on it (different symbolism to the Mongolians). She made the comment that she hopes to have Chris & Tiff stay in Mongolia for ten years or more. I do not think that she is a Christian. We pray that they might have the opportunity to lead her to Christ. Already, their influence has been effective in the lives of other contacts.
Upon departure, from the language school, Tiff caught a bus and headed home to do some birthday party planning, cookie baking, etc. She was also expecting to maybe get a call from the Mongolian International University, offering her a job. The rest of us caught another bus, and headed for the countryside. We were going to visit the church at Gachurt. It was a satellite church, planted by the Eternal Light congregation. Next to it is a little hospital On the back, exterior wall is a picture of a woman nursing her child. In front of the church was a van with several people gathered around it. Looking inside, we saw that they had killed an animal (beef/sheep?), and were selling meat. When we got to the back gate of the church, the fenced compound was locked. Chris called someone, and a young caretaker lady came from a ger, inside the compound, and let us in. We looked at the church camp facilities, and peeked inside the church windows. They have a basketball court (of sorts), a wooden shelter house, a few gers, etc. The fencing around the property was new…installed since Chris & Tiff had arrived. Actually, I think the church may have been started soon after their arrival. The outhouse was interesting, to say the least. You walked in the door and two boards on each side were for your feet. The missing board down the center was the toilet. You looked down the gaping, smelly gap…hoping that the boards were sturdy. Carol decided against participating in that particular “adventure”. After leaving the church property, we headed for a nearby river. On the way there, Chris brushed against a stinging-nettle plant, and let out a yelp of pain (that plant causes an immediate burning, stinging sensation). We let the boys walk into the shallow river. It was swift, cold, & pretty. Chris told us that they use that river for baptisms. I can’t imagine keeping your mind on the spiritual aspects of baptism while being immersed in the chilly water. After walking a bit, allowing the boys to expend some energy, and doing some chatting,…we went to some nearby gravel piles, so Elijah could play on them. Some cows had joined us. As we were leaving, I decided to answer a question that had long been on my mind. I lay down on the ground and waited to see if the cows would come and surround me…out of curiosity. I have been told that a herd will do this. I played dead for a couple of minutes and they acted like I didn’t exist. All that happened was that I got dirt on my clothes and my family thought I was goofy. We headed back up a road, and waited in front of a small store, in order to catch a bus headed back to UB. We had seen one go by …the wrong direction. We were near the end of the route, so expected it to come back soon. Boy, were we wrong! We think the driver must have taken a “lunch break” before returning to town. We bought some cream-filled buns from the small store, and ate them while waiting. Nearby dogs begged for us to throw some to them. Nearby was a building that was home to John Knight…a U.S. missionary who had run an orphanage there. He had run into trouble with the government and was no longer operating the facility. Though we didn’t get to see it, Paul Finch (another American…his sister had been our English teacher at KCCBS) ran a facility that taught horseback skills to handicapped kids. His medical expertise had been of help to Chris & Tiff at an earlier time. Chris said that he has a lovely ger, complete with a refrigerator. Eventually, the bus returned, and we climbed aboard. It was picking up everyone in the countryside, that desired to go to the city,…thus it was so full that I stood, and hung onto a strap the entire trip. I don’t remember why now, but eventually we left the bus and caught another ride on a microbus. Proababy needed to do that to get to our destination. Carol got to sit on the fold-down jump-seat this time. She was not a “happy camper”. We finally arrived at our final stop, and walked home. For lunch, we had some morre leftover soup, tacos, cake, etc…about to finish them off now. Carol, Elijah, and I went to a nearby store and bought M&Ms and 6 ice cream novelties. Cost us around $1 for the ice cream. I really liked that! Around 3 PM, Chris, Carol, and I took a bus to the Gandan Temple area (in UB). After exiting the bus, we went to another temple area to look for a geo-cache. Couldn’t find it, and Chris later learned that it was inside the fence. When looking for a geo-cache, you want to be a bit secretive, so that non-geocachers won’t discover the “cache” and mess with it. This one seemed to be on a busy street corner, with hundreds of people in the vicinity. After giving up on our search, we walked up a hill and through a small village of buildings, and then entered the Gandan Monastery compound. On the way, some elderly man spouted off a bunch of words to me as I went through a narrow opening. I thought he was being kind of odd. Chris told me that he was just giving me a greeting. Gandan is one of the larger Buddhist facilities in the city and visited by many tourists. It is still an active temple for the Buddhist people. We looked at several buildings, and walked the wrong way around one of them (no consequences, other than maybe, strange looks from Mongolian people). The hightlight of the trip was the huge flock of pigeons that hang out there. Children came up trying to sell us birdseed. When we turned down one girl, in favor of a boy with a cheaper price, she became very irate at him…and expressed her irritation strongly. It was one of the few times, we witnessed much of any rage there. The pigeons would come and eat the seed…from your hand…after moments of reticince. Actually, they ate from other people’s hands, but it took awhile before I found acceptance. Go figure! We watched people spinning the prayer wheels…and there were a group of them gathered around what appeared to be a telephone pole…very apparently worshipping in some manner. It was sad to see that. In the adjacent streets, a number of fortune-tellers had set up shop. Since we had seen many Buddha statues, and had spent too much money, I chose to not visit the actual temple. We just walked around it.
Leaving the Gandan monastery, we headed for a business district, where I bought a computer thumb-drive for around 1,200 tugrik. ($10.00), and spent another 500 t. on a case for my camera. Chris would be using the thumb drive to send pictures from his camera with me. Back on the street, we saw a policeman carrying a handful of license plates. I asked Chris about that. He said that if you park illegally, they take yours off your car. You don’t want to do that, as it takes a lot of waiting in line to get them back. We jumped onto another crowded bus for the trip home. Buses are kind of interesting there. Some are electric (overhead wires), some powered by diesel or gas engines. Each has a driver and a “conductor”. Usually a female; the conductor collects your fare. I have no idea how she keeps track of the people who have boarded. Sometimes the bus is jammed, but she works her way throught the crowd, between bus stops, finding the new passengers, and making them pay. Many are just honest…and do so without delay.
Back at the apartment, we soon were getting ready to leave again…this time to get some supper. We walked to the nearby Altai Mongolian Buffet…similar to our own BD’s Mongolian Grill. There were many food choices and it was “all you can eat”. Several of us took a glass of juice that tasted kind of fermented. We had decided that maybe it was actually a wine…until we saw the staff hurriedly dumping it from the dispenser. Perhaps someone had called attention to the fact that the juice had spoiled, not sure. We finally got to eat some horse meat here, but because you place all of the foods into one bowl and have it grilled together, I never knew which piece was the horse. There was also a serving container with a sheep’s head in it (yes, the whole thing), and mutton beside it. I thought that I just as well try it too…could say that I ate sheep’s head while in Mongolia. I also had no idea when I ate it, as it too, was mixed in with other foods. There was a chocolate fountain with the desserts, so we had some fondue for that course. It was a very nice restaurant. They had a ger inside the restaurant, with a long table in it, for group meals.
We got back to the apt. about 8 PM. I read a Francis Asbury story to Elijah and then the boys were sent to bed. Elijah was very sad at this point. He was contemplating the fact that we would only be there for one more day. After the boys were in bed, Chris, Carol, & I went to our bedroom to finish preparing birthday gifts for Elijah. Chris & I assembled the huge castle. When that was done, we visited in the living room for a bit, and gave Chris & Tiff $500 to offset their personal expenses, incurred because of our visit. We finally made it to our room around 10:30 PM, and I was completing my journal notes at 11:10 PM. It had been another “large” day!
One final note about Monday: While at the evening buffet, the show, “Bizarre Foods” (with Andrew Zimmern) was on the television. It was showing Andrew eating in Mongolia. Chris said that the director of that show had contacted him by email for ideas about what they should do while in Mongolia. They never contacted him again, but they were doing some of the very things he had mentioned to them. He jokingly said that they should have had him in the credits. They were at the same “Black Market” that we had visited earlier in the week…and were on some of the same terrible roads that we had traveled. It was fun to see that.